The Grace of Generosity
August 17, 2016
And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.
(2 Corinthians 8:1-3, NIV)
The Apostle Paul was visiting the churches in Macedonia, collecting an offering to relieve the financial distress of the church in Jerusalem. The Macedonian Gentile churches were almost as impoverished as Jewish Jerusalem church, and yet they gave generously to support their brothers and sisters; indeed, Paul says that they gave more than they could afford.
Many pastors hate to talk about money; Paul had no such qualms; he knows that giving is a blessing both to the giver and the recipients. The Macedonians had given generously, and Paul wrote the Corinthians to encourage them to follow the Macedonian example. But, he never once uses any of the Greek words for money. He phrases it all in terms of Grace. Usually Paul uses grace to mean God’s undeserved love that brings people to Christ. But he also uses it, as in this passage, to mean not only what God does in people, but also what God does through people. That is what Paul means by the grace that God has given to the Macedonians. It was not just that they had a wonderful spiritual experience, but they were inspired to act. They were poor and persecuted, but the Holy Spirit gave them such vision of this mission offering that they gave not only what they could afford, but much more. Paul says this is the work of Grace. It is the Grace of Generosity.
Paul knows that giving doesn’t arise from guilt or sympathy or desire for social prestige. What counts is a work of grace in the hearts and lives of ordinary people. Paul has seen this spectacularly in Macedonia now he declares that he wants to see it in Corinth as well.
We need this generous attitude in the twenty-first century as well. American Baptist Churches, like all churches, are able to minister to their neighbors near at hand and far away because of the selfless giving of their members and friends. Generations of members have supported the mission with gratitude to God and with joy. They have experienced the grace of generosity. Today’s faithful Christians follow in their footsteps.
If Paul were here, he would probably be encouraging the American churches to experience the grace of generosity today. In the richest nation in the world, Americans give only about 3% of their income on average to charitable causes. Churches are the largest recipients of charitable giving, but many churches give less than a tithe of their income to support Christ’s work outside the walls of the church. We need a new infusion from the Holy Spirit of the grace that filled the first century churches with a passion for sharing the Good News and meeting the needs of the least.
Prayer: Come, Holy Spirit. Fill our hearts anew with the grace of generosity that as the hands and feet of Christ, we may continue His work in the world. We pray in our Savior’s name. Amen.
Ministry and Mission Coach